The game was up, and Patches knew it. His head hung limp, secure in the knowledge of his fate; there was no use in further struggle. The whole struggle, all of that effort, was an exercise in wasted time and agony; he had no right to call himself a burglar, cat or otherwise.
“Oi! C’mon, mate, what’s the plan, then?”
Patches didn’t answer. Patches didn’t have a plan apart, perhaps, from laying down to die. His past had caught up with him in the form of Count Fontanello, and there was not a damned thing to be done about it. Patches declined to answer. A scaly head butted against his well-tailored shoe, relentless. “Done feeling sorry for yerself? No? I can wait while ‘is Terrifyin’ Lordship gets ‘is strength up and saunters our way. Go on, have a blub, you’ll feel better, lad.”
Patches sneered, spurred into a proper snit, stalked towards the apparent exit, every inch of his modest frame frosted with icy dignity. Decca kept close to his heels, desperate to see through the frothy blizzard, glad he’d been able to prick the prick out of shock or whatever it had been. They were just about to make a clean getaway, when the light subtly altered. There was a flicker in front of them; the air took on a skewed quality. Just as quickly, the discrepancy resolved itself; the Count stood before them, blocking their way.
“COME NOW, OLD BOY – SURELY YOU DIDN’T THINK YOU COULD SLIP OUT WITHOUT SAYING HELLO TO AN OLD FRIEND?”
Patches couldn’t even manage a stammer, let alone a real response. His despair came rushing back; he was tired, he was lost, he was scared, and his only backup was a saucy turtle – there was no way that he could save himself, so why bother with the clever repartee?
And that’s when Decca, the bloody turtle, launched himself snapper-first towards the Count. Patches might have been of two minds regarding his companion, but such selfless sacrifice – against his oldest foe! – well, Patches couldn’t let the poor chap die alone. Retreating to his feline form without a word, he launched himself towards Fontanello’s eyes.
As the two diminutive animals reached their lordly target, naturally he dissolved into dark smoke. Naturally he reformed behind them in a burst of flame, waiting for them to engage. Patches shifted back, with a slight effort – he wasn’t as young as he used to be – picked Decca up, and tucking him neatly into his waistcoat, began running for the now unguarded exit.
“Wot the ‘ell’d you do that for?”
“Discretion, valour, and all that,” Patches wheezed. It was only a slim hope, but when they broke into sunlight, Patches could’ve cried. They were safe from the Fontanello – at least for a few hours.
And that’s when he spotted Eugenia, lounging on the beach beneath a UV-Repellant veil.